The well-known American song, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," is 100 years old this year. It trails only "Happy Birthday" and "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the most frequently performed song in America, at least according to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. (I wonder where "Amazing Grace" is on this list. I would think it has to be the highest ranking religious song!)
What most people do not know is that this song was not always sung at baseball games and it was most certainly not a seventh inning ritual, as it now is, until much more recently.
It was in 1976 that the infamous Harry Caray, while working for
Bill Veeck and the Chicago White Sox at that time, decided to sing it in the seventh inning stretch. Harry could not sing at all and that seemed to make it OK for everybody to sing with him, thus a ritual was born that is now performed hundreds of times every day for six months all across America. Previously the song had been played on the organ when their were lulls in the game and pitching changes were being made.
When the song first appeared in 1908 it was a top-ten hit for three different recording artists. It wasn’t performed at a ballpark until 1934 when Pepper Martin and his St. Louis Cardinals teammates performed it before game four of the Word Series at old Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. (I had the opportunity to see a game in this park before they tore it down, one of my many ballpark memories. It was there that I saw Hank Aaron hit a seventh inning home run over the roof in right field that was taken away because they said he stepped out of the batter’s box! I talked with Hank about this years later and we had quite a laugh about it.)
Most do not know that this song is actually only the chorus of a longer song with a story in it. The full song is about Katie Casey who "had the (baseball) fever and had it bad" She loved baseball just like I do. She turned down all the boys who called on her for a date until one wise beau asked her to go to a ballgame. It was Katie who then sang, "Take me out to the ballgame, take me out to the crowd." It was a a boy-girl song, or a kind of baseball romance if you please.
I gave this "fever" to my daughter who still loves baseball about as much as I do. So when she got married some years ago she had a dance with her husband first and then with her daddy. The song we picked was sung by Carly Simon. It began very slowly with words that no one knew well enough until we got to the chorus. Then our wedding guests heard: "Take me out to the ball game." My friends understood and everyone laughed. I do have the fever and Stacy and I both have it pretty bad! What can I say?